Somerset Rebels
Edinburgh Monarchs
Wednesday 14th August 2019
Oak Tree Arena

The Staggs Bar Monarchs make another long trek south as they head for the Oaktree Arena to take on the Somerset Rebels in an absolute must win match.

With Championship fixtures quickly running out and the Monarchs playing catch up on the playoff positions then this is a truly crucial match where a pointless defeat would leave the Armadale men with very little chance of making the top 4 and having another crack at a league title.

As it stands the Rebels look favourites for a berth but a win for the Monarchs at the Oak Tree would change this dramatically, with the difference in matches run the league table is generally not the best barometer of where teams stands so the best way is to look at the amount of away points gained minus any home points dropped. As it stands Glasgow and Leicester are as good as guaranteed to hit the top 4 being as they currently boast +17 and +12 points in this measure respectively.

After that Redcar and Somerset sit next with the Bears on +8 and Rebels on +6 all the other teams in the division being on a minus at the moment including the Monarchs on -2 having only gained one point away so far at Leicester and with the home defeat to the Tigers accounting for the dropped home points.

That is what makes this match so important as a win for the Monarchs would have the double effect of bringing the home men back into the pack as well.

This will not be an easy task by any means but the Rebels are far from invincible at home having tasted defeat twice already this year albeit these defeats were to the top two.

The recent changes to the Rebels side seems to be taken shape for them with Nick Morris' form improving by the match after taking a little bit of time to get back to full speed after missing the start of the season to injury. Morris gives the Rebels an incredibly strong top end of the team with Morris being joined by Rory Schlein, Chris Harris and Nico Covatti.

With that level of strength at the top end then something had to give at the bottom end and it could be argued that the Rebels have the least experienced trio in the league in these positions. That is not to say that they are not capable performers though. Anders Rowe is having a fantastic debut season in the Championship this being capped with a 9 point performance at the Oak Tree Arena against Newcastle last week. Nathan Stoneman is also a very handy reserve on a 2 point average and with both teams based on a strong top end it could be that these riders will be key.

The Staggs Bar Monarchs will look to put the disappointment of a pointless visit to Sheffield last weekend behind them with more being needed in back up of Sam Masters if a result is to be gained. Nothing more could have been asked of Sam since his return with back to back full maximums at Leicester and Sheffield. When this is the case then in theory it should make the rest of the team's job easier but unfortunately that has not always been the case.

The Monarchs will once again be looking to a guest to help with Cameron not due to make his comeback till tomorrow for Ipswich Michael Palm Toft steps in. MPT as he is known is in fantastic form just now and had 2 race wins to his name on his last visit to the Oak Tree so more of the same would be very welcome indeed.

It is the kind of track that Josh should love with the wide open spaces being right up his alley and James Sarjeant was a key man for Glasgow a fortnight ago with a paid 9 score in their victory so more of the same is required.

With the riders mentioned all kind of known quantities in what they have provided so far it could be that the key men in the team are Ricky and Willie. Ricky's away form has left something to be desired so far this season and none more so than in the last couple of weeks and improvement is required. We all know what Ricky is capable off and firing on all cylinders he should be by a long distance the strongest number 4 in the division and a turnaround in away form is required starting now.

Willie has been a lot more competitive the last few meetings on improved machinery and this needs to continue against that young but improving Rebels bottom end.

So a tough task lies ahead for the Monarchs but one that the team must step up to if any hope of a playoff berth is to be retained. So often in the last few years our 1-7 has stepped up when it matters most and once again this is needed in this fixture. There have been some classic clashes between the two teams at the Oak Tree in recent years and this looks set to be the same.

As always live updates will be available on the Monarchs website for those unable to be there in person to cheer on the boys.